USC Trojans: Pac-12

Pac-12's lunch links

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
11:30
AM PT
There was only one night game a year. On the 4th of July. The whole sky would brighten up with fireworks, giving us just enough light for a game. We played our best then because, I guess, we all felt like the big leaguers under the lights of some great stadium. Benny felt like that all the time.
It's hard not to look up and down the Pac-12 rosters and marvel at some of the offensive talent at just about every school. With 10 starting quarterbacks coming back, the fall promises to bring many sleepless nights for defensive coordinators in the conference.

And while the embarrassment of riches under center is one obvious storyline, there are plenty more dynamic position groups to keep an eye on.

We've been highlighting where each position group stands with camp rapidly approaching, and today we discuss which of those groups deserves to be considered the best of the best.

[+] EnlargeNelson Agholor
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesUSC's Nelson Agholor had 56 catches for 918 yards last season.
Chantel Jennings: This was hard, and for me it came down to running backs and wide receivers. But, considering how great the quarterback situation is in the Pac-12, I think the receivers, conference-wide, are going to have huge seasons. Go down the line and pick out guys who are going to be major, major names to know this year: Arizona State -- Jaelen Strong, Stanford -- Ty Montgomery, Oregon -- Devon Allen, USC -- Nelson Agholor, Utah -- Dres Anderson, Washington State -- everyone and their mother. Quarterbacks are only good when there are receivers on the other ends of their passes and this group of receivers will make this group of quarterbacks look very good (and vice versa).

What makes this even more impressive is to look at the wide receivers that are gone after the 2013 season. Oregon State lost Brandin Cooks. Colorado lost Paul Richardson. Oregon lost Josh Huff. USC lost Marqise Lee. That's some serious yardage and production to lose in one season. But even with that loss, this position group -- in my opinion -- is going to be incredibly impressive this upcoming season. In 2013, the Pac-12 played stage for the eventual Biletnikoff Award winner. I think the same could be true in 2014.

Kyle Bonagura: With so many talented receiving groups out there (don't sleep on Cal), it's hard to go with one over the other, but I'm not convinced that's the case at running back. Kevin Gemmell took a look at each team's group of backs, and while he classified three (Oregon, USC and Arizona State) as being in great shape, it's pretty clear what group stands out: Oregon.

There's only a select few places in the country where Byron Marshall or Thomas Tyner wouldn't be the unquestioned feature back. At Oregon, they might be the second and third best options on their own team. Behind quarterback Marcus Mariota, of course. That's scary. And after the trio combined for 2,464 yards and 32 touchdowns a year ago, there is every reason to expect more in 2014 -- starting with the fact that they'll be running behind one of the best lines in the conference.

Taking everything into account -- especially the element Mariota adds -- finding a better offensive backfield in the country would be a tough task. There are schools that have more impressive workhorse-type backs, but Oregon's unique combination between its style of play and talent, for my money, is unmatched.
The honors keep coming for three former Pac-12 football players now with NFL teams.

Stanford's Trent Murphy, USC's Devon Kennard and Washington State's Deone Bucannon were all named Pac-12 Tom Hansen Conference Medal winners Monday, an honor that takes into account athletic and academic performance and leadership. Each school in the conference honors one male and one female student-athlete.

Murphy, a team captain, graduated with a degree in science, technology and society before being drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins. The outside linebacker led the nation with 15 sacks and was a consensus All-American.

Kennard was a second-team All-Academic team selection in the conference as he worked on a master's degree in communication management. He was selected by the New York Giants in the fifth round.

Bucannon was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round after standout career for WSU in which he finished fourth on the school's all-time tackle list and third in interceptions. He majored in criminal justice.

Here is the full list of winners:

Arizona: Lawi Lalang (XC/track and field); Margo Geer (swimming and diving)
Arizona State: Cory Hahn (baseball); Stephanie Preach (volleyball)
California: Brandon Hagy (golf); Alicia Asturias (gymnastics)
Colorado: Andreas Haug (skiing); Shalaya Kipp, (XC and track and field)
Oregon: Robin Cambier (tennis); Laura Roesler (track and field)
Oregon State: Josh Smith (soccer); Jenna Richardson (soccer)
Stanford: Murphy; Chiney Ogwumike (basketball)
UCLA: Joe Sofia (soccer); Anna Senko (swimming and diving)
USC: Kennard; Natalie Hagglund (volleyball)
Utah: Ben Tasevac (tennis); Mary Beth Lofgren (gymnastics)
Washington: Sam Dommer (rowing); Kaitlin Inglesby (softball)
Washington State: Bucannon; Micaela Castain (soccer)

Pac-12's lunch links

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
11:30
AM PT
Happy Friday!
Spring practice is over, and so is the NFL draft.

Now, the wait begins -- 107 days, to be exact. That's when Arizona State (vs. Weber State), Utah (vs. Idaho State) and Washington State (vs. Rutgers) open their 2014 seasons.

But before we look forward, we'll take another look back at how the Pac-12 fared in the NFL draft.

One word sums it up pretty well: average.

Headed into this year's draft, the conference had averaged 29.8 selections since 2000, which equated to 2.9 per team factoring in Utah and Colorado's arrival in 2011. The 34 selections this year obviously brings that total average up slightly, but it's also a hair under the per-team average (2.84).

Same thing with first-round picks. There were 55 first-round picks during that time period (3.9 per year), which means the three that went in the first round this year was close to status quo.

When Washington State safety Deone Bucannon became the last of those three picks, he snapped the Cougars' first-round drought that dated to 2003. That streak had been tied for the longest in the conference with Arizona State, which counts Terrell Suggs as its last first-rounder.

The conference finished behind the SEC (49) and ACC (42) at No. 3 with players picked in the draft, ahead of the Big Ten (30) and Big 12 (17) among the power five.

In January, Kevin Gemmell outlined who will be replacing the players who left early from the North and South divisions. The total list included 26 players. Nine of those players went undrafted: Cal's Brendan Bigelow, Kameron Jackson, Viliami Moala and Chris McCain; Oregon's Colt Lyerla; USC's Dion Bailey, George Uko and Xavier Grimble; and Utah's Jake Murphy.

There were 19 NFL teams that selected Pac-12 players: Vikings (3), Bears (2), Cowboys (2), Eagles (2), Jets (2), Saints (2), Steelers (2), Packers (2), Seahawks (2), 49ers, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chiefs, Jaguars, Patriots, Raiders, Redskins, Texans, Titans.

Here's the conference draft tally:

Stanford: 6
UCLA: 5
Oregon: 4
Arizona: 3
Arizona State: 3
USC: 3
California: 2
Oregon State: 2
Utah: 2
Washington: 2
Colorado: 1
Washington State: 1

Round-by-round:

First round
9. OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: Minnesota Vikings
20. WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State: New Orleans Saints*
27. Deone Bucannon, Washington State: Arizona Cardinals

Second round
1. OG Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA: Houston Texans
6. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington: Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
7. WR Marqise Lee, USC: Jacksonville Jaguars*
13. WR Paul Richardson, Colorado: Seattle Seahawks*
15. LB Trent Murphy, Stanford: Washington Redskins
22. RB Bishop Sankey, Washington: Tennessee Titans

Third round
6. C Marcus Martin, USC: San Francisco 49ers*
8. DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State: Minnesota Vikings*
18. DT Will Sutton, Arizona State: Chicago Bears
22. WR Josh Huff, Oregon: Philadelphia Eagles
34. TE Richard Rodgers, Cal: Green Bay Packers*

Fourth round
8. DE Cassius Marsh, UCLA: Seattle Seahawks
15. WR Shaq Evans, UCLA: New York Jets
16. CB Keith McGill, Utah: Oakland Raiders
17. RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: Chicago Bears
21. LB Carl Bradford, Arizona State: Green Bay Packers*
24. RB De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon: Kansas City Chiefs*
26. LB Khairi Fortt, California: New Orleans Saints*
40. OT Cameron Fleming, Stanford: New England Patriots*

Fifth round
1. DE Taylor Hart, Oregon: Philadelphia Eagles
5. OG David Yankey, Stanford: Minnesota Vikings*
17. CB Shaquille Richardson, Arizona: Pittsburgh Steelers
22. S Ed Reynolds, Stanford: Philadelphia Eagles*
34. OLB Devon Kennard, USC: New York Giants

Sixth round
16. LB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: Pittsburgh Steelers
25. RB Marion Grice, Arizona State: San Diego Chargers
28. RB Tyler Gaffney, Stanford: Carolina Panthers
36. LB Marquis Flowers, Arizona: Cincinnati Bengals

Seventh round
16. DE Ben Gardner, Stanford: Dallas Cowboys
18. OLB Trevor Reilly, Utah: New York Jets
39. CB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon: Dallas Cowboys*
*Left with eligibility remaining

By conference (FBS only)
SEC: 49
ACC: 42
Pac-12: 34
Big Ten: 30
Big 12: 17
Mountain West: 16
Conference USA: 9
Independents: 9
MAC: 8
Sun Belt: 4
Leading up to a game against Oregon State in Novenber 2012, Stanford coach David Shaw was asked to compare the Beavers’ receiving duo (Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks) with the one at USC (Marqise Lee and Robert Woods).

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonRecord-setting WR Marqise Lee could be off the draft board early in Round 2.
“Well, first of all, I don’t mind going on record as saying that I think Marqise Lee is the best college receiver that I’ve seen since I scouted Randy Moss,” Shaw said.

He's wasn't just throwing that out there either -- Shaw was a quality control coach for the Philadelphia Eagles during Moss’ final season at Marshall. And while the future Hall-of-Famer fell to No. 21 overall in the 1998 draft, his talent was never in question.

When Shaw made the comparison, it sounded about right. At the least, it would have been difficult to argue against. Lee was on his way to what were then Pac-12 records for receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,743). It was Lee, not former No. 1 overall pick Keyshawn Johnson, who was named USC’s first Fred Biletnikoff Award winner.

At the time, there was no question he would be a top-10 pick in the NFL draft. Maybe top 5.

Out of the first round? No chance.

And even as he struggled to meet the bar through nagging injuries, quarterback struggles and coaching turmoil in 2013 -- the Pac-12 blog didn’t name Lee one of the conference’s top-25 players for the 2013 season -- it was hard not to write it off as a season-long aberration. Aberration or not, it’s going to cost him a lot of money.

The first receiver picked in last year’s draft, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, received $12.8 million in guaranteed money after getting picked at No. 8 overall by St. Louis. The first receiver selected in the second round last year, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, received $3.8 million guaranteed.

Feeling bad for someone who is about to make a life-changing amount of money to fulfill a childhood dream isn't the correct feeling, but, still, $9 million buys this house and leaves roughly $3.5 million. And that's just the minimum difference in guaranteed money.

Lee’s size came into question through the pre-draft evaluation process -- he measured at 6-foot, 192 pounds the combine -- but that didn’t hurt Austin, who measured 5-foot-8, 174 pounds. Austin ran a superior 40-time (4.34 to 4.52), but it would have been tough for a team to choose him over Lee.

Of course, none of this matters in the grand scheme of things. Lee should be one of the first players drafted in Friday’s second round, which means he’ll likely have the opportunity to contribute immediately. For a player with Lee talent, that should be enough.

Ten Pac-12 players to watch on Day 2 of the NFL draft

Pac-12 NFL draft primer

May, 8, 2014
May 8
1:00
PM PT
Despite coming off one of its strongest years in recent memory, the Pac-12 doesn’t figure to have a strong showing in the first round of the NFL draft.

Just three players — Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks, USC receiver Marqise Lee and UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr — figure to hear their names called Thursday, and it's not a guarantee that all three will be picked in the first round.

In ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's final mock draft , it’s Cooks who comes off the board first, at No. 18 to the New York Jets. Both Lee (No. 21) and Barr (No. 25) follow shortly thereafter.

If that’s how it plays out, it would mark the first time since the NFL and AFL drafts combined in 1967 that the conference did not have a player drafted in top 15. Just three times in that 47-year period has the conference not had a top-10 pick, with Cal’s Marshawn Lynch to Buffalo at No. 12 in 2007 the most recent occurrence.

Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t see that happening. In his final mock draft , Barr is off the board at No. 11 to Tennessee.

On Barr, Kiper writes:
I have Barr a bit lower on my prospect rankings than many others because I think there's a lot of development left for a player who was a fullback just two seasons ago. You can't deny his potential because not only is he a great athlete, he's also shown an ability to get to opposing quarterbacks with regularity

Kiper also predicts Cooks will land in Philadelphia, where he would join Chip Kelly's Eagles and join a receiver group that added former Stanford tight end Zach Ertz in the second round of last year's draft and needs to replace former Cal receiver DeSean Jackson.

Both Cooks and Lee are scheduled to be in New York for the draft, as well as USC center Marcus Martin, who regularly has been pegged as a likely Day 2 selection.
Earlier we passed along an offensive production breakdown by class for the Pac-12 North during the 2013 season. Here are the same numbers for the South. Similar posts for defense will run Thursday.

Arizona
Passing yards: 2,516

Freshmen: 0
Sophomores: 0
Juniors: 0
Seniors: 2,516 (100 percent)

Receiving yards: 2,516
Freshmen: 1,239 (49.2 percent)
Sophomores: 289 (11.5 percent)
Juniors: 464 (18.4 percent)
Seniors: 524 (20.8 percent)

Rushing yards: 3,444
Freshmen: 86 (2.5 percent)
Sophomores: 127 (3.7 percent)
Juniors: 1,889 (54.9 percent)
Seniors: 1,377 (40.0 percent)

Touchdowns: 57
Freshmen: 11 (19.3 percent)
Sophomores: 2 (3.5 percent)
Juniors: 25 (43.9 percent)
Seniors: 19 (33.3 percent)


Arizona State
Passing yards: 3,723

Freshmen: 0
Sophomores: 88 (2.4 percent)
Juniors: 3,635 (97.6 percent)
Seniors: 0

Receiving yards: 3,723
Freshmen: 227 (6.1 percent)
Sophomores: 2,051 (55.1)
Juniors: 214 (5.7 percent)
Seniors: 1,231 (33.1 percent)

Rushing yards: 2,679
Freshmen: minus-4
Sophomores: 645 (24.1 percent)
Juniors: 992 (37.0 percent)
Seniors: 1,129 (42.1 percent)

Touchdowns: 69
Freshmen: 1 (1.4 percent)
Sophomores: 22 (31.9 percent)
Juniors: 16 (23.2 percent)
Seniors: 30 (43.5 percent)


Colorado
Passing yards: 2,989

Freshmen: 1,779 (59.5 percent)
Sophomores: 32 (1.1 percent)
Juniors: 1,178 (39.4 percent)
Seniors: 0

Receiving yards: 2,989
Freshmen: 190 (6.4 percent)
Sophomores: 721 (24.1 percent)
Juniors: 1,981 (66.3 percent)
Seniors: 97 (3.2 percent)

Rushing yards: 1,450
Freshmen: 578 (39.9 percent)
Sophomores: 604 (41.7 percent)
Juniors: 299 (20.6 percent)
Seniors: 0

Touchdowns: 36
Freshmen: 7 (19.4 percent)
Sophomores: 8 (22.2 percent)
Juniors: 20 (55.6 percent)
Seniors: 1 (2.8 percent)


UCLA
Passing yards: 3,269

Freshmen: 166 (5.1 percent)
Sophomores: 3,103 (94.9 percent)
Juniors: 0
Seniors: 0

Receiving yards: 3,269
Freshmen: 690 (21.1 percent)
Sophomores: 1,451 (44.4 percent)
Juniors: 67 (2.0 percent)
Seniors: 1,061 (32.5 percent)

Rushing yards: 2,556
Freshmen: 1,127 (44.1 percent)
Sophomores: 868 (34.0 percent)
Juniors: 534 (20.9 percent)
Seniors: 75 (2.9 percent)

Touchdowns:
Freshmen: 23 (36.5 percent)
Sophomores: 22 (34.9 percent)
Juniors: 7 (11.1 percent)
Seniors: 11 (175 percent)


USC
Passing yards: 3,180

Freshmen: 0
Sophomores: 3,180 (100 percent)
Juniors: 0
Seniors: 0

Receiving yards: 3,180
Freshmen: 324 (10. 2 percent)
Sophomores: 1,531 (48.1 percent)
Juniors: 1,145 (36.0 percent)
Seniors: 180 (5.7 percent)

Rushing yards: 2,419
Freshmen: 597 (24.7 percent)
Sophomores: 1,427 (59 percent)
Juniors: 11 (0.5 percent)
Seniors: 412 (17.0 percent)

Touchdowns: 53
Freshmen: 8 (15.1 percent)
Sophomores: 34 (64.2 percent)
Juniors: 9 (17.0 percent)
Seniors: 2 (3.8 percent)


Utah
Passing yards: 2,835
Freshmen: 0
Sophomores: 2,835 (100 percent)
Juniors: 0
Seniors: 0

Receiving yards: 2,835
Freshmen: 102 (3.6 percent)
Sophomores: 229 (8.1 percent)
Juniors: 1,672 (59.0 percent)
Seniors: 832 (29.3 percent)

Rushing yards: 1,924
Freshmen: 40 (2.1 percent)
Sophomores: 1071 (55.7 percent)
Juniors: 314 (16.3 percent)
Seniors: 514 (26.7 percent)

Touchdowns: 43
Freshmen: 1 (2.3 percent)
Sophomores: 8 (18.6 percent)
Juniors: 16 (37.2 percent)
Seniors: 18 (44.2 percent)

*Total rushing yards includes team rushing, which is not accounted for in the class breakdown.

Pac-12's lunch links

May, 7, 2014
May 7
11:30
AM PT
The reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

A week ago, the official trailer for When the Game Stands Tall, a movie inspired by Bay Area football powerhouse De La Salle High was released.

It stars Jim Caviezel as legendary coach Bob Ladouceur, who guided the Concord, Calif., school to a famed 151-game winning streak from 1992 to 2004. The movie is based on the book of the same name written by Neil Hayes, who had unrestricted access to the team in 2002 -- the senior year of future UCLA and NFL star Maurice Jones-Drew.

[+] EnlargeBob Ladouceur
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Bob Ladouceur coached De La Salle High to a 151-game winning streak from 1992 to 2004.
I grew up 20 minutes from De La Salle and have followed the program since elementary school, so it was an especially intriguing trailer for me, but the storyline should have mass appeal for Pac-12 fans, especially those at Oregon.

What jumped out quickly from the trailer was that the movie does not depict the year in which Hayes, then a Contra Costa Times sports columnist, spent with the team. Instead, it will focus heavily on the circumstances around the 2004 death of linebacker/running back Terrance Kelly, who was shot two days before he was set to leave to begin his college career -- along with De La Salle teammates Cameron Colvin, Jackie Bates and Willie Glasper -- at Oregon.

"It starts with the championship game in 2003 with T.K. and those guys as seniors," said Hayes, who served as an official consultant on the movie. "Then it goes into the offseason, [Ladouceur's] heart attack, T.K.'s death -- it was crushing for the community -- and then goes into the 2004 season."

For more worthwhile reading about Kelly's lasting impact, go here, here and here. His final game was the last of De La Salle's streak.

The Spartans opened the next season with a 39-20 loss to Washington state power Bellevue at CenturyLink Field. I was a sophomore at Washington State at the time, had read Hayes' book, and so had several of my friends. For them -- some from Hawaii, some from the Seattle area -- De La Salle was some sort of mythical creature, and at their urging we made the Pullman-to-Seattle road trip to see the game.

Nearly 300 miles to see a high school football game. As college students. That's the kind of allure De La Salle had.

Seven players currently on Pac-12 rosters attended De La Salle: Cal's Michael Barton and Austin Harper (freshman year only); Oregon State's Tyler Anderson, Terron Ward and Dylan Wynn; Stanford's Austin Hooper; and USC's Michael Hutchings. Three more will join the conference for fall camp: Sumner Houston (Oregon State), Kevin Griffin (Washington State) and Dasmond Tautalatasi (Arizona State).

As with any inspired-by-real-life movie, there are some creative liberties that don't follow reality.

For example, the movie will feature a game between De La Salle and Southern California's Long Beach Poly, the supposed No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country, which actually took place in 2001. Jones-Drew, then sans the Jones, had a game people still talk about, and, of course, re-live on YouTube.

"It's done for dramatic purposes and there are some new characters ... not every character comes from De La Salles," Hayes said. "But those liberties that were taken were done so with pure motives."

The football scenes were orchestrated by stunt coordinator Allan Graf, a starter on the offensive line for the 1972 USC national championship team that finished 12-0. Graf is a fixture in the industry and has been a stunt coordinator on several other football films including Friday Night Lights, Any Given Sunday, Gridiron Gang, The Replacements, The Waterboy, Jerry Maguire and The Program.

"This was some of his best work," said Hayes, in terms of how realistic the football scenes are.

At one point during filming, Ladouceur and longtime defensive coordinator Terry Eidson, portrayed by Michael Chiklis, traveled to Louisiana, where the movie was shot.

"You have all these movie stars there, but when those guys got there, they were the celebs," Hayes said.

Ladouceur retired following the 2012 season after 34 seasons with a career record of 399-25-3, but remains on staff as an assistant to Justin Alumbaugh, a UCLA graduate. Before deciding to remain on staff as an assistant, Ladouceur drew interest from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to serve in a consulting role.

USC coach Steve Sarkisian and LSU coach Les Miles have cameos in the movie, which includes some shots at Isidore Newman School, which produced Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.
ESPN's Todd McShay released his Mock Draft 4.0 Insider on Friday, but unlike the first three, this one included projections for the second round to go along with the first.

If things were to play out how McShay envisions, the Pac-12 would account for just three first-round picks. The surprise there is not the amount, but who is not included -- UCLA OLB/DE Anthony Barr.

After projecting Barr at No. 7 in his first mock draft in December, McShay had him at No. 11 in versions 2.0 and 3.0. This time? All the way to the second round at No. 36 to the Oakland Raiders.

It's long been assumed the UCLA pass rusher was the obvious candidate to be the first Pac-12 player taken, but the torch -- at least in this instance -- has been passed to Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks at No. 18 to the Jets. McShay's previous forecast had USC receiver Marqise Lee in that spot, but now he has Lee joining former Oregon coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia at No. 22.

McShay notes:
Lee did some serious damage to Chip Kelly's Oregon teams in 2011 and 2012, with a combined 20 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns.

UCLA offensive guard Xavier Su'a-Filo is tagged for former USC coach Pete Carroll and the Super Bowl champion Seahawks at No. 32.

Seven players from the Pac-12 were projected to go in the second round, and a notable running back from the conference is on the board after the first two rounds.
On Monday, we took a look at how the Pac-12's offensive players stack up as NFL prospects in the eyes of ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Tuesday, it's the defense's turn.

Defensive line

  • DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State: No. 4 (Kiper), No. 5 (McShay)
  • DT Will Sutton, Arizona State: No. 8 (Kiper), No. 10 (McShay)

If you've been following along since the end of the season, Sutton's spot isn't all too surprising. He didn't have a good showing at the combine and has taken heat about his physical condition, dating to before last season. Even with the concerns, it's hard to imagine he won't eventually find his way in the NFL. After all, he's only the second player in conference history to be a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Washington's Steve Emtman (1990-91) was the other. That's not by accident.

Coincidentally, the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam, isn't ranked in the top 10 by either. See the list here. Insider

Other Pac-12 defensive linemen who figure to be in the mix in the draft are Cassius Marsh (UCLA), Taylor Hart (Oregon), Deandre Coleman (Cal), George Uko (USC), Tenny Palepoi (Utah), Morgan Breslin (USC), Ben Gardner (Stanford) and Josh Mauro (Stanford).

Linebacker

  • [+] EnlargeAnthony Barr
    Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsFormer UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr could be the first Pac-12 player to be drafted this year.
    OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: No. 2 (both)
  • OLB Trent Murphy, Stanford: No. 6 (Kiper), No. 9 (McShay)
  • ILB Shayne Skov, Stanford: No. 3 (both)
  • ILB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: No. 8 (Kiper)

Barr is widely considered the Pac-12's best hope at landing in the first 10 picks, but if McShay was drafting, that wouldn't be the case. On drafting Barr, McShay wrote:
[Barr] of UCLA is a speed-rusher who stalls out when attempting to convert speed to power, and there is too much finesse to his game for me to pay a top-15 price for him. He looks like he's on skates when he attempts to set the edge.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the same player Stanford coach David Shaw compared to Jevon Kearse. Shaw called Barr called the best (defensive) player the conference has had in the "last few years."

Murphy is in a similar boat to Sutton in that his college production isn't necessarily being viewed as a lock to translate to the NFL. He still figures to be a good fit for a 3-4 team and should be expected to contribute right away.

Outside of the four listed, it wasn't a very deep year for linebackers in the conference. Utah's Trevor Reilly, who can play both OLB and DE, Arizona State OLB Carl Bradford and USC's Devon Kennard headline the rest of the NFL hopefuls.

Defensive back

McGill should send a thank you card in Pete Carroll's direction. It's largely because of Seattle's use of big-bodied corners en route to a Super Bowl victory that the league appears to be trending in that direction. At 6-foot-4, McGill's size -- in addition to his solid showing at the combine -- is a rare asset among the group of corners.

Bucannon looks like he'll be the first defensive back off the board, but will he be a first-round pick? That's unlikely, but it would be a surprise if he lasts into the third round.

Another storyline to watch is where the three defensive backs who left early -- safety Ed Reynolds (Stanford), cornerback Terrance Mitchell (Oregon) and cornerback Kameron Jackson (Cal) -- wind up.

See the lists for linebackers and defensive backs here.Insider

When Steve Sarkisian left USC to become the head coach at Washington in 2008, he did so facing an uphill climb. Without any head-coaching experience and at an unfamiliar place, he was tasked with turning around a once-proud program that had gone 0-12 the season before.

Moderate improvement was the realistic goal and an accepted expectation -- at least early in his tenure. Five years and four bowl games later, the Huskies are in a better place and Sarkisian is back home, ready to do it all over again at USC.

This time, however, there won't be mixed opinions about how a seven- or eight-win season should be viewed. At USC, that's failure, and Sarkisian knows it.

[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian, USC Trojans
AP Photo/Jae C. HongNew USC coach Steve Sarkisian isn't in a rush to name a starting quarterback.
“We will not shy away from the expectations that USC football embodies, we will embrace them," he said. "I came here to win championships and so did all of our players.”

The Trojans return eight starters apiece on offense and defense from a team that went 10-4 and finished ranked No. 19, but they'll be without five players who left early for the NFL. Those departures will keep USC below 70 scholarship players as it enters the last of a three-year period in which the NCAA capped its scholarship total at 75.

“We’re not worried about who we don’t have on the roster or what our numbers are,” said Sarkisian. “What we do know is we have a roster of very talented football players who are hungry to do well.”

Having taken over a new program once before, Sarkisian is undoubtedly more prepared to begin his reign at Troy.

"You just have a better understanding of what's coming your way," he said. "There's so much going on. Turning on that fire hose and spraying water ... you can get overwhelmed.

"Whatever we're doing, we'll focus on doing that well and then it'll be on to the next thing. You can't try to do it all at once. Focus is much better the second time around; we feel good where we're at."

The Trojans begin spring practice Tuesday with Sarkisian set to place a heavy emphasis on walkthroughs and meetings. That's partially because the new staff needs to implement its schemes, but also because nearly 20 players will be either sidelined or limited throughout the spring due to injury.

With so many players unable to practice, Sarkisian admitted the staff won't get a full gauge of the roster. Regardless, he and his staff are set to begin evaluating on Day 1.

"We're going in with an open mind and a clear slate for every player," he said. "I don't want to go out there with preconceived notions ... rather them show me who they are. That's the mindset."

The biggest question facing the Trojans before their opener against Fresno State on Aug. 30 is at quarterback, where returning starter Cody Kessler will see competition from highly touted redshirt freshman Max Browne and early enrollee Jalen Greene. Sarkisian said the timetable for when a starter is named will depend on what plays out on the field.

"There's no deadline," he said. "When you make a deadline you tend to wait. We don't want to do that. When it feels right, we'll [name the starter]. If it's one, two, three days or into fall ... I don't think it'll be something that'll linger."

The Trojans will have three practices this week, all of which are open to the public. USC will then take a week off for spring break and practice three times a week until the spring game on April 19 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Pac-12's lunch links

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
2:30
PM PT
Happy Friday!

ESPN's Todd McShay added a fourth Pac-12 player to the first round of his latest NFL mock draft Insider, released on Thursday.

The addition is UCLA offensive guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, who McShay envisions joining former USC coach Pete Carroll in Seattle with the No. 32 pick.

On Su'a-Filo, McShay wrote:
We only have a second-round grade on him, but he is a guy whose stock is rising as the draft process goes on, and he has good foot quickness and size.

His UCLA teammate, Anthony Barr, is projected at No. 11, but it didn't come with a ringing endorsement:
I'm not someone who thinks Barr has enough upside to be an early first-round pick, but there seem to be a lot of guys in the league who do.

USC receiver Marqise Lee (No. 18 to the Jets) and Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks (No. 26 to the Browns) are the other Pac-12 players included, but both are lower than in McShay’s previous mock. In this scenario, Cooks would be paired with Johnny Manziel, who is projected to Cleveland at No. 4.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12